Press Release
June 16, 2021

Phl economy paying a hefty price for 'anemic' response to arrest COVID-19 pandemic, says Drilon

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said the next administration faces a hefty debt burden and the problems of a shrinking economy and a rising unemployment rate and hunger due to the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The economy is paying a hefty price to arrest the COVID-19 pandemic," according to Drilon in a television interview on Wednesday.

Drilon blamed the mismanagement of the Department of Health of the pandemic responses for the rising cases that caused the collapse of the economy, forcing thousands of businesses to close down and leaving millions of Filipinos jobless.

"Let me emphasize that where we are today is the result of the mismanagement of the DOH of our pandemic responses. Our original sin, if I may call it as such, is when we refused to close our borders on China," Drilon said, citing the earlier refusal of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to close the Philippine borders on Chinese early last year to prevent the spread of the virus into the Philippines.

He also pointed out that the reason why the country is lagging behind in terms of the availability of the vaccines is because of the failure to secure the much-needed doses early by making advanced payments with vaccine manufacturers.

"The inoculation is very slow. At the rate we are going, I don't know when we can achieve herd immunity," he lamented.

Drilon said the next administration will be bombarded by both the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic.

He cited, for instance, the record high of P10.9 trillion national debt as of April. The national outstanding debt increased by roughly P3.2 trillion during the pandemic from approximately P7.73 in 2019.

"This is a burden to the next administration. I don't know why they want to run for President. We have this hefty debt," Drilon said.

"These are very difficult challenges for the next administration. I would repeat, this hefty debt as a result of the pandemic is a challenge," he added.

Drilon, who expressed support for government borrowings to finance COVID-19 response, noted the assurances made previously by the finance secretary that the debt level remains manageable.

He said, however, the national debt may continue to increase as the government will have to resort to more borrowings to finance its COVID-19 response, including the purchase of vaccines, given the fact that the Philippine economy has been in the longest recession since the 1980s and the low tax collections.

The economy shrank by 4.2 percent during the first quarter of this year and recorded a full-year 2020 economic contraction of 9.5 percent. The World Bank recently downgraded its Philippine economic forecast to 4.7% from the previous forecast of 5.5%.

"Lumiliit nang lumiliit ang ating ekonomiya. Mayroong 4.14 million ang nawalan ng trabaho noong Abril. About 21% of Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger," Drilon said.

Drilon also called a "pipe dream" the government's economic team's projection that the Philippine economy will be able to recover starting the second quarter of 2022.

"I don't believe that. Even with the election spending in 2022, I don't think we would be on the road to recovery by the second quarter of 2022. To say that we will be going back to the 2019 economic level by the second quarter of 2022 is a pipe dream," Drilon said.

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